Six months ago, Boca Juniors missed out on signing Ricardo Centurión as the troublesome winger moved to Italian club Genoa. Six months on, and Boca have again failed to land the player, who helped the club lift the Primera title in 2017, after Centurión made an unexpected return to where his career began, Racing Club.
Centurión was still firmly in Boca’s plans but with Genoa unwilling to negotiate a loan and still unhappy with the Xeneizes over the previous deal, Racing pounced on an opportunity and agreed a permanent deal for €4 million.
Racing still owned 30% of Centurión since receiving €4.2 million for the remaining 70% from São Paulo in 2015 and so were able to buy back that majority from Genoa to complete the transfer.
Despite coming through the club’s famous academy, Centurión is now the most expensive player in its history and for all of his problems off the field provides manager Eduardo Coudet with a terrific attacking asset.
— Racing Club (@RacingClub) January 18, 2018
“We’re going to enjoy a great player,” president Victor Blanco told reporters just before Racing announced the signing.
“Centurión will be well received. The people will love them and the stadium will explode.”
Blanco and director of football Diego Milito both called Centurión personally and it is thought that the 38-year-old former striker played a key role in persuading Ricky to return after the pair played together to help La Academia lift the Torneo de Transición in 2014.
As an Avellaneda local and graduate of Racing’s academy, few could doubt Centurión’s love for the club but a return didn’t look likely and as recently as last July, before moving to Genoa, the 24-year-old said,”If I don’t get a transfer to Boca, I’ll retire.”
Another careless episode in a nightclub on the eve of a permanent move to Boca saw Daniel Angelici pull the plug and Centurión ended up in Genoa, a club where he had already endured one failed loan spell earlier in his career.
Retirement didn’t follow but Centurión did almost nothing in Italy and so it was no surprise when the Rossoblu were looking to sell in this window. Boca were frontrunners once more but after the trouble in July, Genoa were unwilling to sanction the same loan deal that they offered to Spanish club Malaga.
A transfer to La Liga looked most probable until that too fell through and Racing were then able to put together a bid that satisfied Genoa.
The soap opera style transfer that has gone back and forth is a fitting episode in the life of a player whose self-destructive streak has undoubtedly held him back from achieving far more.
As part of Racing Club’s exciting group of academy products, Centurión should probably be something of a recognizable name in Europe by now like former teammates Luciano Vietto and Rodrigo de Paul.
Anyone who has watched Argentinian football since Centurión made his Racing debut in 2012 is aware of his talent and after playing a key part in title winning sides for La Academia and Boca, Eduardo Coudet will be hoping that the forward brings that with them for this second spell.
Electrifying pace and a bag of tricks that Paul Daniels would have been proud of, Centurión was often the go-to man for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side less than a year ago and while Dario Benedetto provided the much needed ruthlessness in front of goal, it was Centu’s speed and creativity that created the danger on the counter.
If Racing get that player on a consistent basis then it’s a major coup but with Centurión there is always a risk.
From the scandal of posing with a gun while at Racing Club (something which he did again on holiday this summer) to fleeing the scene after a drunken car crash shortly after signing for Boca and all the little misdemeanors in between, Centurión has never quite shaken his kid from the villa tag and admitted in an interview, “I am surprised that the fans, my teammates and the coach trust me.”
Growing up in one of Buenos Aires’ most under-privileged areas and staying close to those roots, much like Tevez, is perhaps one of the reasons supporters are endeared to him but when he is arrested in his old neighbourhood with a member of Racing’s barra brava, there are rightly questions asked as to whether the 24-year-old really wants to make it as a professional footballer.
If Centurión is to fulfil his potential then there is a sense that this return to Racing is his last chance. A wonderful platform to impress in an environment that he knows well but the slightest problem off-field and expect plenty of doors to slam shut.